Monday, 25 January 2010

A Belgian Bonsai Weekend: Show....

There are a couple of things that stick in my mind about the Noelanders Trophy XI this weekend; one of them would be the Saturday crush.  The doors opened at 10:00 and we decided to arrive late to avoid any queueing.  We got there at 11:00; all the convenient parking spots were gone, plus there were still over 100 people waiting outside to get in.  Marc Noelanders told us apparently some people had been there since 09:00.  I'm totally pleased for him, as they put in so much hard graft into this show.  (More on that later.)

I mentioned on Twitter that the Noelanders show seems to have become the unofficial landmark opening of the European bonsai show circuit.  I recognised Eastern European, UK, French, Italian, German, Spanish & of course BeNeLux visitors (you do see many of the same faces year on year) as well as the occasional Americans; I'm sure there were other nationalities there, I just don't know them all so apologies if I missed you.  Lots of cards and show flyers were exchanging hands.  What seems to happen is that people make a point of catching this show to invite enthusiasts from other countries to attend or display at their local shows later in the year.  TOH got no less than 3 invites to display our trees on the Continent this year: fitting them all in will be something of a logistical - and financial - challenge.  But I'd love to do it.

That said, I know you're gagging to see the trees.  So here goes.  But my usual caveat applies - these are my photos of displays that I found interesting, for all sorts of reasons; but this is not an indication of my personal preference for or an indication of merit (or not) in the trees, unless specifically mentioned.  Most of the time I do try to refrain from any sort of technical or artistic critique; I'm sure the owners are already more than aware of the strengths and limitations of their bonsai.

This is a very large Pomegranate: Punica granatum 'Neji-kan' in a Chinese pot, by Graham Potter.  Notable of course were the fruit on the tree.

And another large tree, Lino Pepe's Olive: Olea europaea in an Isabelia pot.

I first saw this shohin Jasmine in a calendar about two years back. This was the accompanying accent for Udo Fischer's display of a large literati Pinus nigra.

A shohin Itoigawa Juniper (about 8 in / 20 cm high from base of pot) by Mario Komsta, in an antique Chinese pot.  This tree received a Special Mention.  Note the evenness of the foliage.

I think I may have seen this tree at the Swindon Winter Image show last year: a very large Carpinus koreana raft in a Gordon Duffet pot, belonging to Ian Stewardson.  A very striking display, this also received a Special Mention.

A Larix decidua - both pot and tree by John Pitt.  This is a smaller tree, probably would be in the chuuhin size category.

There weren't as many purely shohin and mame displays this year, from what I can recall.  Most of the smaller trees that were there were often in accompaniment to bigger trees.  In what I believe was the only mame display: a Lonicera nitida by Ruud Simons.

One of the larger accent plantings: a Sempervivum and moss creation, which accompanied a Pomegranate belonging to Joerg Derlien.

This is a very large Scots Pine raft in a Derek Aspinall pot, by Richard Chambers.  Richard will probably remain in my memory for helping us out at the EBA convention last year with a whole load of wire, but that is not why this photo is in here.  He also had another Scots Pine in the show (a large literati I think) but maybe I just have a preference for groups of trees...

This Silver Birch (Betula pendula) in a Tokoname pot by Hermann Haas had quite an interesting deadwood feature at the back of the trunk.

A Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata) with prominent deadwood by Josef Valuch; pot by Isabelia.  It seemed like there were more entries from the Eastern European countries this year, which I personally appreciate as we have so few opportunities to see what's going on over there.  I remember the EBA convention in Poland in 2006 and it looks like things have moved forward in leaps and bounds since then.

And of course, I will always mention the Suiseki that Gudrun and Willi Benz go through so much trouble to bring out for our enjoyment.  I could have photographed them all as the standard is always excellent, but taking down the details of all the photos is one heck of a drag.

This one is a Colour Stone from Anhui, China.

And this unusual (for me, anyways) piece of geology is a Chalcedony pattern stone from the White Water River, a tributary of the Yangtze River in China.

And everyone wants to know the winners.  There were several trees that received Special Mention certificates, but I didn't have the time to go hunting them all down.  Just because the attendance was lower on the Sunday didn't mean that it wasn't busy in the exhibition hall.  So what I did manage to take were:

Mario Komsta's Itoigawa Juniper in an antique Chinese pot.  This took the prize in the Kifu category, which I understand to be a newly created size category, one up from the chuuhin size.  (Let's not get into a discussion on category dimensions, I don't agree with precise measurements of trees when entering them in a size category.  I will mention measurements from time to time on this blog, but that's just to give an idea of scale.)  I overheard a 'big' bonsai artist commenting on this tree - and the detail wouldn't show on this photo - saying that the foliage was both very even and very green, a remarkable achievement given that Mario is currently living in a very hot and dry part of Spain.

The winner of the Noelanders trophy: another Itoigawa Juniper, this time by E. Savini and F. Mantovani.  My understanding is that this tree was a favourite among several showgoers.  I didn't manage to take a photo of this tree when it was on the main show bench, so it was practically impossible to get up close for a detail shot.  The tree is actually larger than it seems to be in this photo.

One thing I've always liked about this show is that there are no restrictions on the public taking photos.  Not that Joe Public walks around with professional quality kit anyway, plus the light is really not ideal for taking detail shots.  And you can't get far back enough without bumping into another person taking photos.  If you are interested in purchasing the show book, go to their website here.

(No, I do not take commissions for plugging things on this blog.  Sod off.)

Four years ago, my mate Bob insisted that we come to the Noelanders show; his selling points were the lack of politics, the friendly atmosphere and the quality of the trees.  The former is probably something you can never get rid of in a human congregation, but it has never affected me at my level; the latter two are very definitely true and I look forward to going back each year.  I've already decided on which hotel to book....

... and Tell (Noelanders Trophy XI)

I mentioned in an earlier post that, while I go to all these shows to see bonsai trees and related material, I derive a great deal of enjoyment from some of the people that I have met over the years.  So let me tell you about my people-watching last weekend.

I can't go on enough about the number of people that were there on the Saturday.  I believe the total show attendance was 3,500 people, the bulk of which were there for the opening.  The good bit about the queue was that we were forced to go exploring around the neighbourhood (no way was I queueing for hours in the cold.  Been there, done that, got the T-shirt).  Found a great wine and beer merchant that also had an impressive stock of liquor.  More Japanese, Irish and Scottish whiskies than I have ever seen under the same roof, even taking into account the big boys in Calais.

This year at the Noelanders Trophy, I was privileged enough to grill Marc Noelanders on the logistics of and his plans for the future of the show.  As with the UK, the cost of hiring a hall is very high in Belgium. And an impressive amount of work - and expense - go into producing a show of this level.  Set-up starts several days before the show and tear-down goes on until the Monday after closing.  The expense they rack up is rather gob-smacking but I guess it does show in the end result.  I've heard lots of people clamour for a big national show in the UK but I wonder if, when it comes down to it, they would be willing to put up the same amount of commitment, effort... and money.

The Noelanders show takes over the 2 levels of the Cultural Centre in Zolder, Belgium.  The top level is the auditorium where the demos take place (which I totally missed this year), and a sales area.  Most traders have the same spot year on year, so I just tend to make a beeline for the same people as soon as we clear the doors.  But sorry, no photos this time of Walsall Studio Ceramics, Harukaze, Bryan Albright or Klika (to name but a few).  TOH and I got caught up for over an hour-and-a-half just saying hello and catching up with bonsai acquaintances.  At one point I did wonder if we would even make it to the cafe (also on the same floor) for my regular mid-morning caffeine fix; well, lunchtime actually.  The crowd was so dense 4 of us were jammed between sales tables as we tried to make conversation and buyers tried to get a better look at either Walsall's pots or the huge yamadori specimens next to them.  Very good of the traders not to mind, really.

Downstairs (when we eventually got there) has two sales areas, a cafeteria, a photography area and the exhibition hall.

This part of the sales area shows Morea Pubbens' work in the foreground.  Right in front of the tulips and obscured by the kusamono is a large round black ceramic pot which came home with me.  Yes, the big smirk is still on my face.... :o)

Another end of the same sales area, with Windybank Bonsai on one side and John Pitt on the opposite side.  At the far end is a sales display of mame and shohin trees.

We also got to comparing photos with Mario Komsta of the past winter - a sort of 'my snowfall was bigger than yours' thing.  Mario said the drive to Belgium took him 16 hours.  Marc's reply being that of course he had to go and live in the middle of nowhere....  Yes, sympathy is alive and well in the bonsai world :D

I think Mario is best known for a chuuhin Red Pine that was entered in the Kokofu-ten and was also featured in Bonsai Focus.  If you ever get a chance, try to catch one of his talks; I attended one at EBA 2009 and thought it was very well put together as he takes you through the development of a tree.  Q&A  sessions in English can also be rather lively as he has a good command of the language.  Mario told us about a bonsai show coming up in Poland sometime in May, I think, at Castle Książ.  So if you've got time on your hands and bonsai on your mind, Poland is always worth a visit, especially for the food....

And this here is Václav Novák of the Czech Republic, trying to get in the way of my taking a shot of the Suiseki.  And succeeding.  Václav had a couple of entries in the Noelanders show, and some of you may also have heard of him in conjunction with the EBA New Talent Contest.

And this here is not a person, but I thought you'd like it anyway.  I believe this is one of Marc Noelanders' trees - a pine in what I think is an Isabelia pot.  This wasn't an official show entry as it was completely unlabelled (hence the conjecture).  Last year he had a similar one, much smaller and tucked away in a little corner; if I recall correctly it was a Juniper, which was what inspired me to try something similar with this rose.  As you can see, absolutely no comparison!  But give it a few decades.... :D

Saturday, 9 January 2010

P could also be for Poinsettia...

We aren't so far from the holiday season (well, just a hair's breadth-ish after the 6th January, heheh) that I can't post a pretty pic of a pretty Christmas cake:

This was a friend's gift (completely home made!) to TOH and I've set it up against the new kitchen tiles that TOH has put so much hard graft into sealing.

Ain't it all pretty?

... or it could be for Parallels...

No, we aren't out of the woods yet in all the household travails.

The kitchen isn't quite finished, as my pretty toy (AKA the integrated espresso machine) has yet to be delivered.  The kitchen suppliers have an ordering/distribution system that sucks donkey balls. Big time.

TOH's software woes had gotten to the point that it was simpler to junk the computer.  Exit stage left.  Hard-learned lesson #35 of 2009: don't expect a Helpdesk to sort you out, much less hold your hand. 

Enter stage right - a new computer which was delivered late in the afternoon today.  TOH has spent the entire evening putting the hardware together and is now in the process of loading the software. With multiple pitfalls including being sent the wrong disks. And recovering the data from the old box?  The saga continues....

Taking down the old kitchen and prepping it for the fitters (i.e. boxing up all the stuff) was a simple matter of several hours' work between TOH and myself, with the help of all the boxes that several kind friends had donated to us for the effort.  A very big 'Thank You' to you lot.  Coffee and cake coming your way once I actually get a coffee machine.  :o)

Now, putting back the stuff we took out - finding homes for everything, getting things organised... that's taken like flippin' days.  Although the bulk of the work is over, I'm still fiddling around, testing out how best to make a well-oiled machine out of one little (OK, slightly large-ish) workroom. 

Teardown's a piece of cake.  Building / repairing / finessing something so that it works - that's a much harder job.  And where am I going with this?  Sometimes we charge full steam ahead with our actions without completely considering the consequences.  And when the latter has a destructive effect.... well, rebuilding bridges isn't so hot, izzit?  That could be someone's hard-learned lesson of 2009, or maybe again they may never learn their lesson.

... or for 'Perspectives'...

I can take no credit for this lovely piece of craftmanship, which is @lilmissmaya's weaving final:

And although I was completely in admiration of the juxtaposition of colours, she told me that her professor hadn't seemed to like it that much, with the criticism that the colours didn't shift gradually enough.

I will admit to knowing bugger-all about weaving or the use of dyes.  On the other hand, I do know how to recognise when a lot of effort has gone into creating something.  And I do know what I like - which may or may not be in tune with what an expert would like.  Nonetheless, my view is that the opinion of the beholder - however valid - does not take away the inherent merit of the work. 

And at the end of the day, surely - whatever the perspective - what should count is the fruit that the action bears.  After all, a criticism is just a comment, isn't it?  But then, what effect did it have - did it do more harm than good?  Was the end result a learning experience, some sort of epiphany or grand revelation of truth? 

And it's not just about making comments, is it?  There's the spirit behind the comments.  And whether clarification came with them.  Or whether they were just a series of terse, snappy one-liners or - worse - insincere flowery platitudes.

No, this isn't about getting at the professor at all.  What this does tie up with is all the seemingly disjointed rants that I've been littering this blog with over the past couple of months.  Baffled? Oh well, perhaps reading on is the answer?  Hur, hur, hur.....

But I would like to thank @lilmissmaya for the use of her photo and for introducing me to her work.  Want to see more?  Go contact her via Twitter.

... or it could even be for Popsicle Bonsai

In this post I showed you pics that Stef took of our bonsai in the summer.  Well, scrub that from your mind and replace it with this:

and this:

The big freeze has been upon us, and the garden hose broke just before the snow fell.  Which of course happened overnight without anyone knowing anything about it until we looked out the window and saw these:

 Frozen accent plants

 Frozen shohin Picea, Chinese Juniper and a White Pine

And another frozen Chinese Juniper.  All the popsicle shohin have been moved into the cold greenhouse and have started to thaw out.  Fingers crossed. 

Everyone else (of the bonsai, that is) is sitting outside in the snow.  Ah, the joys of the holiday season...